Friday, April 24, 2020

Bullet Points: Staying Occupied Edition

• HBO-TV’s Perry Mason reboot, starring Matthew Rhys as a character closer to Chinatown’s Jake Gittes than to Raymond Burr’s resolute defense attorney, finally has a broadcast debut date—June 21—and a trailer, found here. Plot details about this mini-series are sparse, but it’s supposed to be a Mason origin story, set in 1932 Los Angeles and involving an Aimee Semple McPherson-like celebrity evangelist, that year’s Olympic Games and L.A.’s oil boom, and “a child kidnapping gone very, very wrong.” Filling out the cast will be John Lithgow, former Orphan Black star Tatiana Maslany, Chris Chalk as Paul Drake, and Juliet Rylance as Della Street. The International Movie Database (IMDb) suggests this drama will run to eight episodes.

• Piggy-backing upon that HBO show, The Mysterious Press is reissuing half a dozen of Erle Stanley Gardner’s original Mason novels in e-book format, all with rather handsome noirish covers. Among those re-releases are The Case of the Lonely Heiress (1948), The Case of the Green-Eyed Sister (1953), and The Case of the Terrified Typist (1956).

• Meanwhile, ITV’s new Van Der Valk, a three-episode reboot of the same-named 1972-1992 British crime drama, is set to premiere in the UK this coming Sunday, April 26. The show features Marc Warren (Beecham House, Hustle, Mad Dogs) in his first lead role, as street-smart and unapologetic Amsterdam police detective Simon “Piet” Van der Valk, with Maimie McCoy (DCI Banks, A Confession, Endeavour) playing “Lucienne Hassell, Van der Valk’s highly competent partner who isn’t afraid to ruffle some feathers.” Radio Times says this “appears to be a newly created role replacing that of Inspecteur Johnny Kroon, the naïve assistant from the original series portrayed by Michael Latimer.” Both shows were inspired by Nicolas Freeling novels. Warren’s Van Der Valk will join PBS-TV’s Masterpiece Mystery! lineup sometime this summer, though a specific air date has not yet been announced.

• And The Columbophile ponders the possibility of rebooting Peter Falk’s famous TV detective drama, Columbo. Should a one-off motion picture be made, or might a new series be launched? If the latter, then should the stories be set in the 1970s, or should they be updated with forensics technology and cell phones? Finally, who should occupy the lead role—Mark Ruffalo, perhaps, or Russian Doll star Natasha Lyonne? (Falk once said that the only other actor he could see playing his bumbling L.A. police lieutenant was Art Carney.) “ … I’m not vehemently opposed to a Columbo reboot in a way I once was,” writes The Columbophile’s unidentified blogger, “but would only feel confident if it was set in the opulent L.A. of the ’70s, remained true to the original character’s sex, ethnicity, habits and personality, was a series not a one-off movie, and was suitably supported by a cavalcade of talent. In short, more of the same from when the show was at its peak.” Even I might be OK with it under those terms.

• NoirCon 2020 has been cancelled because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, says The Gumshoe Site. That gathering had previously been scheduled to take place in L.A. from September 10 to 13. “NoirCon is a biennial literary conference devoted to the dark subgenre of fiction and film called ‘noir,’” explains Gumshoe blogger Jiro Kiruma, who adds: “Actually the previous NoirCon, which was supposed to be held in Philadelphia in 2018, was cancelled too, partly due to the passing of its co-founder Deen Kogan in March 2018.” The official cancellation notice, from NoirCon organizer Lou Boxer, is here.

• CrimeReads’ Molly Odintz today surveys the field of crime and mystery novels “set against a backdrop of plague or [that] feature mysterious spreading illnesses. Some,” she explains, “are more relevant to our times than others—after all, COVID-19, unlike some of the illnesses in the following books, is not a psychological malady—but all should help us slowly begin to process the enormity of our current situation (and perhaps help us feel just a bit better about the odds, compared to those of the past).”

• English journalist-author Tony Parsons (#Taken) knows just the sort of story he would like to tell, if Ian Fleming Publications ever commissions him to pen a new James Bond continuation novel. As he writes in the UK edition of GQ magazine:
I have always planned to set my own James Bond book after the end of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and before the start of You Only Live Twice. That means the lost days between the murder of Bond’s wife, Tracy, in the final chapter of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but before the first chapter of You Only Live Twice, which finds our hero out east in a geisha house, given one last chance of redemption by M. That is surely fertile ground for any novelist—between the loss of the love of your life and your last chance to do something right. I even have a title—spoiler alert—Always Say Die. You can almost imagine Adele or Shirley Bassey singing it.
• While we’re on the subject of 007, The Spy Command points to new research by espionage-fictionist Jeremy Duns, which confirms that Catch-22 author Joseph Heller worked on a version of the script for Casino Royale, the 1967 movie based oh-so-loosely on Fleming’s 1953 Bond novel of the same name and starring David Niven.

• Like many of you, I suspect, I am currently watching my way through Season 6 of Bosch, the Amazon Prime TV series—based on Michael Connelly’s police procedurals—that dropped last week. (My opinion so far: This run of 10 episodes is far more interesting than Series 5.) Tied in with that premiere comes Michael Carlson’s new piece about “the way the show’s visuals work to set scenes, and also to set the tone of the whole series.” It appeared originally in Medium, but a version can also be found in Shots.

• Killer Covers concluded its month-long salute to artist Mitchell Hooks last weekend, after rolling out almost 100 paperback covers he created. If you missed out on some of that series, click here.

• Procrastinating from far more important responsibilities, Southern California author Lee Goldberg (Fake Truth) has lately put together humorous short tours of his home office, a couple of which supply answers to viewer questions about whale penises, his James Bond film posters, and more. You can watch them here, here, and here.

• During one of our trips to London, my wife and I made a special visit to Shakespeare’s Globe, a modern re-creation of William Shakespeare’s 17th-century playhouse on the south bank of the Thames. I’d purchased tickets months in advance for a presentation of Romeo and Juliet, and though I was suffering a terrible cold on the day of the show (I’m sure those sitting around us expected me to be hauled away to the nearest hospital at any moment), I insisted on remaining through the entire play. Now you can enjoy the Globe’s Romeo and Juliet for yourself, without running the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus during a plane flight. Literary Hub reports that the Globe “is making past performances of some of their productions available to stream for free through June. From now until May 3, you can watch the theater’s 2009 production of Romeo and Juliet. The rest of the roster includes The Two Noble Kinsman, The Winter’s Tale, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

• By the way, the Bard’s 456th birthday is coming up this weekend, on April 26—the perfect excuse for Literary Hub to arrange a discussion “between five scholars who have devoted their careers situating Shakespeare alongside issues of performance, education, identity, partisanship and more …” Assistant editor Aaron Robertson introduces it as “an essential guide to the possible futures of our collective engagement with theater.”

• Author and educator Art Taylor notes on Facebook that the new issue of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine contains an announcement of which writers and short stories have won that publication’s 2019 Readers Awards. They are, in order of their placement, David Dean (for “The Duellist,” May/June 2019), Paul D. Marks (for “Fadeout on Bunker Hill,” March/April 2019), and—tying for third-place honors—Doug Allyn (for “The Dutchy,” November/December 2019) and G.M. Malliet (for “Whiteout,” January/February 2019). Below, I am embedding the scan of EQMM’s announcement that Taylor featured in Facebook. Click on the image to open a more readable enlargement.

• Before its recent re-release, by Poisoned Pen Press, I’m not sure I had ever heard of The Beetle, an 1897 supernatural horror novel from British writer Richard Marsh. Yet in its day, observes Olivia Rutigliano, it outsold Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published in the same year.

• From Mary Picken, at Live and Deadly:
As we wait to hear whether the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival can go ahead (a decision is expected at the end of the month) there is good news around the annual prizes the Festival Awards for Scottish Crime Fiction in the past year.

Bloody Scotland is delighted to confirm that The McIlvanney Prize will be going ahead in 2020 with new sponsor, the Glencairn Glass, the World’s Favourite Whisky Glass and the Official Glass for Whisky. The Bloody Scotland Debut Crime Novel of the Year, which was launched last year and won by Claire Askew with All the Hidden Truths, will also go ahead, sponsored by the Glencairn Glass.

The award-winning, Scottish family business Glencairn Crystal, creators of the Glencairn Glass, has always produced the decanter for the winner of The McIlvanney Prize so it was a natural partnership for them to come on board as sponsors of the prizes in their entirety.
A longlist of McIlvanney Prize nominees is expected on June 23, with finalists to be announced on September 1. A final decision on this year’s winner is anticipated on September 18.

• Just a quick reminder: Submissions to this year’s Eleanor Taylor Bland Crime Fiction Writers of Color Award contest, sponsored by Sisters in Crime, “are free and open to any emerging writer through June 8, 2020,” says Oline H. Cogdill in the Mystery Scene blog. “The winner will be announced by July 15, 2020.”

• A Shroud of Thoughts blogger Terence Towles Canote has posted a broad recap of the acting credits chalked up by Brian Dennehy during his 43-year career; Dennehy, of course, died last week at age 81. One of my favorite Dennehy appearances was his turn as a comfortably corrupt sheriff in the 1985 western film Silverado, but he’d previously guest starred on such TV series as Serpico, Lou Grant, Cagney & Lacey, and Hunter, and led the cast of Big Shamus, Little Shamus, an extremely short-lived 1979 detective drama (see its opening title sequence here). He would go on to star in the 1994 medical series Birdland and the 2001 sitcom The Fighting Fitzgeralds, as well as in teleflicks such as Perfect Witness (1989), To Catch a Killer (1992), and Deadly Matrimony (1992), the first of six movies in which he played a homicide investigator named Jack Reed. In addition to the aforementioned Silverado, Dennehy featured in big-screeners such as First Blood (1982), Cocoon (1985), Legal Eagles (1986), and Tommy Boy (1995). He won a Golden Globe Award for his role as Willy Loman in the 2000 television film Death of a Salesman, plus two Tony Awards for his stage performances. Canote calls Dennehy “truly a modern-day character actor. Throughout his career he portrayed a wide variety of characters including heroes, villains, and everything in between.”

• Gone now, too, is Andrew J. Fenady, the Ohio-born actor, screenwriter, producer, and author, who may be best remembered by Rap Sheet readers for his two lighthearted detective novels, The Man With Bogart’s Face (1977) and The Secret of Sam Marlow (1980), both starring L.A. cop-turned-private investigator Sam Marlow. Fenady passed away on April 16. He was 91 years old. Long before he created his fictional retro gumshoe, Fenady produced a trio of still-well-remembered TV westerns: The Rebel (1959–1961), Chuck Connors’ Branded (1965–1966), and finally, Hondo (1967), about which Fenady talks in a couple of video clips found here. He continued working on films over the next quarter century, his credits including a 1980 adaptation of The Man with Bogart’s Face and the 1989 TV film Jake Spanner, Private Eye (aka Hoodwinked), starring Robert Mitchum as an aged, cranky sleuth created by L.A. Morse. (See a trailer here.)

• Mystery Fanfare conveys the sad news that Sheila Connolly has died. Blogger Janet Rudolph explains that Connolly, born in 1950, “was the author of numerous novels and short stories: The County Cork Mysteries (8 novels and a novella), The Orchard Mysteries (12 novels), The Victorian Village Mysteries (1), The Relatively Dead Series (6), The Museum Mysteries (7) and two standalones: Reunion with Death and Once She Knew. Her latest book, Fatal Roots, was published by Crooked Lane Books in January.” Connolly has at least one more new novel yet to hit bookstores: her third Victorian Village mystery, The Secret Staircase, due out in May 2021 from Minotaur. FOLLOW-UP: Blogger Lesa Holstine offers her own farewell to Connolly, reposting a piece the author wrote in 2014 “about her love of Ireland.”

• Finally, we bid adieu to Rubem Fonseca, “one of Brazil’s leading literary figures whose flinty, obscenity-laden crime stories were seen as dark metaphors for the rot in Brazilian society,” according to The New York Times. Jose Ignacio recalls in A Crime Is Afoot that Fonseca, a onetime police commissioner in Rio de Janeiro, “started his career by writing short stories, considered by some critics as his strongest literary creations. His first popular novel was [1983’s] A Grande Arte (High Art), but Agosto [1990] is usually considered his best work. In 2003, he won the Camões Prize, considered to be the most important award in the Portuguese language. In 2012 he became the first recipient of Chile’s Manuel Rojas Ibero-American Narrative Award.” Fonseca was less than a month away from his 95th birthday when he died on April 15. (Hat tip to Mystery Fanfare.)

• In Reference to Murder says that the Mystery Writers of America “will be announcing the 74th annual Edgar Allan Poe Award winners via the Twitter handle @EdgarAwards next Thursday, April 30th, beginning at 11 a.m. That’s the same date the winners would have been announced at the honors banquet that was canceled due to the coronavirus.”  Here are all of the contenders.

• Shotsmag’s Ayo Onatade chatted recently with former New Zealand lawyer Craig Sisterson, the author of Southern Cross Crime, a guide to the world of Australian and New Zealand crime writing. (An audiobook version of that work will soon be available in both Britain and the States, but the UK print version—originally scheduled for April, has been postponed until September, due to the COVID-19 crisis.) During their exchange, Onatade asked what “fun fact” Sisterson had come across while researching his book. He responded:
Hmm … before writing the book I was already aware that the history of antipodean crime writing dated back to the earliest days of the detective fiction genre (in terms of novels and short stories). The bestselling detective novel of the 19th century wasn’t written by Wilkie Collins or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as many might think, but by a New Zealand lawyer who’d moved to Melbourne to further his dreams of becoming a playwright (Fergus Hume, The Mystery of the Hansom Cab). One of the earliest writers of police tales was Mary Fortune, who wrote dozens from the Australian goldfields in the 1860s. Thanks to the research of the likes of Lucy Sussex, I was already aware of these historic figures.

But what I didn’t know was that the very first Edgar Award given out by the Mystery Writers of America back in 1954, actually went to an Australian. Charlotte Jay (pen name of Adelaide writer Geraldine Halls) won for
Beat Not the Bones, a psychological thriller about an Australian woman who travels to New Guinea to uncover the truth behind her husband’s death. Talking to award-winning crime writer Alan Carter recently about that book (he’d come across it during his Ph.D. studies), he described it as “fantastic, radical and well ahead of its time … A vivid, often hallucinatory, gut-punching beautifully written book.”

So, while we’re experiencing an antipodean crime wave in recent years, the currents certainly run long and deep back through the decades and centuries.
Click here to enjoy this full interview.

I mentioned in a previous post that Thomas McNulty has launched a YouTube channel on which he talks about vintage books. His latest offering—found here—reintroduces us to MacKinlay Kantor (1904-1977), once “one of America’s best-known and best-selling authors,” but now pretty much forgotten. McNulty’s narrative makes me want to keep my eyes out in the future for used copies of Kantor’s works, and to find a copy of his still-in-print 1955 Civil War novel, Andersonville.

• More than a decade ago, The Rap Sheet posted video of Mark Coggins interviewing fellow crime novelist Joe Gores, the author of 32 Cadillacs, Interface, and the Maltese Falcon prequel Spade & Archer. But just last week, I received an e-note from Coggins, saying that “with so much time on my hands” during the pandemic shutdown, he’d “tackled a project that had been on the docket for years: transcribing my interview with Joe Gores.” You’ll find the welcome results here.

• Otto Penzler has now cracked the top 20 among his choices of “the greatest crime films of all time.” Number 20 was The Conversation (1974), with North by Northwest (1959) capturing the 19th spot. Catch up with all of Penzler’s selections here.

• The Moderate Voice has some rather nice things to say about Margaret Rutherford: Dreadnought with Good Manners, Andy Merriman’s 2009 biography of the English actress who portrayed Agatha Christie’s Miss Jane Marple in a succession of 1960s films. Reviewer Doug Gibson’s choicest tidbit, though, is this one: “During her life Rutherford feared that a family history of unstable behavior would cause her to lose her sanity. Her father murdered her grandpa. As a toddler her mother killed herself. She was raised by her aunt.” Apparently, Rutherford suffered from serious depression.

• Finally, a few more author interviews of note: Nancie Clare speaks with Marcia Clark (Final Judgment) for her Speaking of Mysteries podcast; during an exchange on another podcast, Seize the Way, Harlan Coben (The Boy from the Woods) covers subjects ranging from his writing insecurities to his life as a New Jersey father; Criminal Element’s Steve Erickson fires a few questions at Max Allan Collins about the latter’s latest Mickey Spillane collaboration novel, Masquerade for Murder; and for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Steve Weddle chats with William Boyle about the importance of place setting in Boyle’s books (including his newest, City of Margins).


Art Taylor said...

Always love the Bullet Points editions--and such fun scrolling through and seeing my own name here! Thanks for all the hard work pulling everything together and keeping us informed. Hope you're doing well.

Elizabeth Foxwell said...

I reviewed MacKinlay Kantor's _It's About Crime_ collection (1960) on my blog (, and my post on his story "The Grave Grass Quivers" (1931) is one of the most popular on my blog (

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Thanks for those leads, Elizabeth. I'll look up the two posts in your blog, The Bunburyist.